Just last week I praised Jeffries for stabilizing the Knicks defense, and this morning reports have hit the news of the Knicks swingman breaking his wrist. Jeffries won’t likely be around for the Knicks opener on November first’s game in Memphis, but he should be back by December first’s game in Detroit. The injury will cost the Knicks wing somewhere between 3 and 6 weeks, and CNNSI has taken the opportunity to bash the Knicks by covering the news with the title: “It’s always something – Jeffries’ broken wrist leaves Knicks scrambling again.”
As I commented yesterday the Knicks have a glut at SF, and Jeffries injury could be an opportunity for any of the Knick small forwards.
Quentin Richardson is coming off his worst season, but so far this preseason he’s looking like the Q-Rich of old. He’s been the first or second guy off the bench for Isiah, so it’s possible that Richardson might inherit the starting job. With the Francis-Marbury backcourt, the Knicks sorely lack an shooter to keep defenses honest. Quentin’s career 3 point shooting percentage is better than any of the Knick starters, so if he’s found his touch he might be able to help spread the floor. However Isiah might like the Knicks’ chemistry with Richardson sparking things off the bench, so Richardson’s early season success might work against him.
If Isiah Thomas wants to keep the same style and balance he has with his starters, then Renaldo Balkman would step into Jeffries role. Like Jeffries, Balkman earns his keep everywhere else on the court save for shooting. A draft day chuckle for pundits and fans alike, Balkman has shown in summer league that Isiah is an excellent evaluator of incoming talent. Keeping that talent (Butler) and evaluating guys already in the league (everyone he’s traded for) is another story. Starting Renaldo Balkman would not only give the Knicks a high energy player, but would be a nose thumbing to all those who critisized the pick.
There are three problems with starting Balkman. The first is that he’s not exactly the man-to-man defender Jeffries is, and with the matador defense of starters like Marbury & Francis the Knicks really need someone to clamp down on their man. The second is that Balkman is still a rookie & will be prone to rookie mistakes. Finally giving a player of Balkman’s freshman status major minutes may rankle the veterans on the team. So if Isiah wanted to keep Quentin Richardson as a candidate for NBA’s 6th man of the year, and not throw Balkman to the wolves, plan C would be Jalen Rose. Rose is likely to be burried on the Knicks bench this year, but it’s possible that Isiah could find a use for his ball handling talents in his “Quick” offensive scheme.
So while Jeffries injury isn’t the ideal situation for a Knick team looking to win now, it’s certainly not the disaster that CNNSI would have you believe.